Consistency is Not Conformity

When a company fosters uniqueness among its people, the result is a unique brand.

Until 1995, IBM was notorious for an unrelenting dress code that tolerated no disparity. Respect your customer and dress accordingly was the driving adage, and that meant dark suits and ties, without exception. Unsurprising – until the 80s, men wore suits to work for most non-industrial jobs anyway. 

Things changed when tech exploded. Workplaces became dramatically younger – partly because young minds find better traction on emerging advancements, and partly because pioneers like Microsoft sought to distinguish themselves from the stodgy old guard. These days, in many fields, dress codes are an artifact of the past. Trendy, lifestyle-friendly work environments are designed at great expense to attract and nurture talent. Company culture is a brand value. So are diversity, individuality and freedom of expression.

In the corporate world of the 70s, order and conformity were a means of controlling brand image. Suits were a professional imperative, and no one would’ve dared to assert differently. These days we know better. Suppressing individuality leads to other problems: dissatisfaction, resistance and productivity loss. Even without knowing why, most people understand the importance of their own personal brand. Being unique is part of being alive.

This is true for corporate brands too. Consistency of appearance, behaviour and values are desirable brand attributes. But conforming to rigidly-defined ideals is counter-productive, leading to inflexibility, tunnel vision and a failure to be agile, pivot, fail fast or adapt quickly – all traits of successful young companies in the digital age. Brands that can live up to their vision and values without resorting to militant conformity will naturally find resonance with new customers, because individuality is a highly-valued quality.